History of Buchanan County, Iowa 1842 to 1881
Transcribed by Tommy Joe Fulton and Peggy Hoehne
LETTER NO. XC.
CAMP AT WATERFORD, MISSISSIPPI, December 14, 1862.
FRIEND RICH: - Since I last wrote you from Hurricane creek, we have been on the move. Our division has been subdivided, and the commander of the right wing of the army of the Mississippi has been sent to another point. On the tenth inst. Major General W. T. Sherman announced to the whole column that he had been assigned to a new command which required him to return to Memphis, but he hoped to meet us again at Vicksburgh; till then he bade us farewell. We supposed, then, that our other army relations would remain unchanged; but the next morning Brigadier General Lauman announced to us that he had been ordered to a new division, and that the Twenty-seventh Iowa would move to Waterford as soon as practicable, and report to Colonel Dubois at Holly Springs. The Colonel has gone to-day to report. What our destination is we do not know; but the prospect is that we shall be set to guarding bridges on the Central Mississippi railroad. Our present location is on that road, seven miles from Holly Springs, and four from the Tallahatchie. The One Hundred and Third Illinois and the Twelfth Indiana are also here, and I understand the One Hundred and Seventeenth Illinois is to report here.
We may be put into a brigade again and move in some direction quite different from what we now expect; but the peculiar state of the country around renders it almost certain that our duty, for the present, will be the inglorious, but very important, one of preventing the rebels from destroying the railroad. One thing is certain, we have here a better chance to receive news from home. As it is, our regiment has not received any news since we left Cairo, except what we got by visiting the Fifth Iowa. I understand one mail has been sent by way of Memphis. If that is the case, we must wait until it is sent back to Columbus, Kentucky, and thence to Corinth, There is no communication with Memphis any other way, except by a large, armed force. Thieves, rebels, bandits and guerillas infest the country, and are in and around the city. It is a place of so much importance that I should suppose our army would open, and keep open, communication with it by railroad to Grand Junction.
The country around Waterford is mighty poor just now. The ancient landmarks of the proprietors of the soil, which consisted principally of ten-rail fences, have disappeared. Ancient stables, sheds and out-houses, are fast going the same road, You see an unoccupied building to-day in good repair. To-morrow the doors are gone, then the floors, next the siding, then the roof, and in a short time the entire structure has disappeared - gone to cook the pork and beef, and boil the coffee of the Yankee soldiers. Foraging in this vicinity is quite different from that in the region of Chuluhoma. There neither the rebel nor the Union army had been in large force till the time of our advent, and forage was plenty within our lines. Here Price's whole army was stationed for several weeks; then Grant's army lay here for a while, and forage is quite as abundant as you could expect, after the passage of an army of locusts, followed by one of grasshoppers. But every day sees from five to ten teams, and from thirty to sixty men from each regiment go out on foraging expeditions, under directions of the quartermaster. They have some distance to go, but generally return well laden with corn and fodder, and in the bottom of the wagon it is not strange to find a few slaughtered domestic animals - hogs, chickens, sheep, turkeys, etc., or a barrel of molasses, sugar or salt. Frequently it alsohappens that the expedition returns accompanied by several fine contrabands, who are immediately set to work to do the cooking and drudgery of the camp, the policy of the Government being to relieve the soldiers as much as possible from fatiguing duties in camp, which can be better performed by these "free American citizens, of African descent." Night before last we had an alarm. One of the pickets accidentally discharged his gun. The long roll was beaten, and the whole regiment was in line in less than three minutes. Among the first on the ground with gun and cartridge box was Edward L. Herndon, my contraband. He has been carrying for some time the equipments of one of the sick boys in company C, and says if we ever get into a fight he is bound to do something for the stars and stripes.
The coldest weather we have had here, as yet, is about like an April shower in Buchanan county. To-day it threatens rain, and is so warm that the flies are somewhat troublesome in our tents. We have had but one snow storm where we have been, since last winter. When they had snow here we were at Mille Lacs. It has snowed a very little once since we have been on the Tallahatchie, but we saw it only while it was falling. News comes that we are to be stationed to-morrow. Our worst fears are realized.